Following Julianne Hough's Departure, CBS Scraps Controversial Activist Series

julianne hough's elle morning routine screenshot

CBS is the home of some of the biggest reality shows in television history with Big Brother, Survivor, and The Amazing Race, but the most recent reality series that the network announced started causing controversy right away. Called The Activist, it was designed as a competition series that would feature activists representing various worthy causes facing off to try and win the top prize. The uproar resulted in co-host and Dancing with the Stars alum Julianne Hough announcing her departure, and not too long after she released her statement, CBS has scrapped the plans for the series.

CBS decided to cancel the plans for a five-episode competition series based on activists representing different causes, and Variety reports that the network will instead produce a one-off documentary. The documentary would consist of entirely new footage despite the fact that some footage had already been filmed when The Activist was in the works as a competition series. The project is evidently going to start over from the beginning, so it's possible that the documentary's similarities to the original plan may be few and far between. CBS was joined by production partners Global Citizen and Live Nation in revealing the reasoning for the change:

The Activist was designed to show a wide audience the passion, long hours, and ingenuity that activists put into changing the world, hopefully inspiring others to do the same. However, it has become apparent the format of the show as announced distracts from the vital work these incredible activists do in their communities every day. The push for global change is not a competition and requires a global effort. As a result, we are changing the format to remove the competitive element and reimagining the concept into a primetime documentary special (air date to be announced). It will showcase the tireless work of six activists and the impact they have advocating for causes they deeply believe in. Each activist will be awarded a cash grant for the organization of their choice, as was planned for the original show.

Julianne Hough was one of three celebrity hosts announced for The Activist as a competition series, joined by Usher and Priyanka Chopra Jonas. At the time of writing, none of the three have publicly commented on the news that the show has been scrapped and the premise retooled into a documentary, and it's not clear whether or not they will be part of the documentary in light of the reports that the footage that had already been filmed won't be used. Prior to the news about The Activist, Hough was the only one of the hosts to address the controversy surrounding the use of social media metrics and input from celebrity judges for very serious issues.

In a lengthy statement that she posted to Instagram, Julianne Hough shared that after hearing what the critics online had to say, she "wholeheartedly" agreed with them that "the judging aspect of the show missed the mark" and she's "not qualified to act as a judge." She also apologized for her past use of blackface that has come to light since news broke about her co-hosting The Activist, and acknowledged that "this is a conversation" that needs to happen. Interestingly, she revealed that she shared the concerns of critics with "the powers that be" and expressed confidence that they would do the right thing with the project moving forward "for the greater good." Hough has supported good causes in the past.

There's no saying how much Julianne Hough's concerns and decision to depart did or didn't affect the decision to retool The Activist competition series into a one-off documentary, but the latter happened just a day after the former. Interestingly, this isn't the first time that Hough unintentionally ended up involved in a controversial TV decision. The Activist was originally scheduled to premiere on October 22. Since the project is starting over with an entirely different format, it's likely that the documentary won't release on that date, but only time will tell. The fall TV schedule is packed with other projects, however, none of which generated the unique kind of controversy that The Activist did before the changes were announced.

Laura Hurley
Senior Content Producer

Laura turned a lifelong love of television into a valid reason to write and think about TV on a daily basis. She's not a doctor, lawyer, or detective, but watches a lot of them in primetime. CinemaBlend's resident expert and interviewer for One Chicago, the galaxy far, far away, and a variety of other primetime television. Will not time travel and can cite multiple TV shows to explain why. She does, however, want to believe that she can sneak references to The X-Files into daily conversation (and author bios).